Awarta, Beit Furik, Huwwara, Za'tara (Tapuah), Mon 14.4.08, Afternoon
Translation: Maureen A.
It was a stifling day during a heat wave, which gave us a rare chance to observe the mechanism of the occupation.
The entrance road to the village of Zeita-Jam'iin is still closed off. The road-block has been in place since October, 2007.
14:00 - Za'tara Junction Checkpoint -
There are almost no cars from any direction. Reserve-duty soldiers are manning the checkpoint. We arrived just in time for the change of shifts. The new Checkpoint Commander explains nicely that he has no problem with our being there, but he wants us to know that as long as we're there, he will check the Palestinians more severely. Why? Since he doesn't want them to think that he is checking them less because we are there. In this way, he actually wants to prevent the Palestinians from getting the wrong idea and thinking that the presence of Human Rights Organizations may help them in some way. He says that if we take the flags off the car and if we take off our tags, he will even set up chairs in the shade for us, on the side, so we can sit comfortably and watch. We decline the gesture. In any case, since there are very few cars, we move on.
The entrance road to Beita village -
There's a partial road-block, next to which there's a Border Police jeep. On our way back, at 16:45, the road block is still in place. There are lines of cars from both directions, more than 10 cars in each line. The drivers complain that they've been waiting to enter the village for more than half an hour. According to them, the road-block has already been there for three days.
The soldiers explain that there's a violent struggle going on inside the village between two clans. As long as they are only killing each other, it doesn't bother the soldiers, but they're using guns and it has started to "leak out", and threaten the lives of Jewish settlers traveling in the area. The Border Police is responding, since this is their sector. Their way of responding is to put pressure on the whole village, to punish everyone. In addition, they are using pressure in order to recruit "co-operation" - so that the villagers will turn over those involved in the war between the clans.
The means of putting pressure on the villagers is to check the vehicles and pedestrians entering and leaving the village extremely carefully. At times, during the last few days, the entrance to the village was completely closed off. The soldiers relay the ID numbers of all passengers in all cars to be checked, and wait for the reply. The process takes quite some time for each vehicle. They also don't allow any vehicles belonging to the villagers to leave the village...only humanitarian cases. The villagers may only leave on foot. That will continue until the violence ends and anyone who owns a gun is turned over to the IDF. The unit commander finds no fault in this arrangement. He says he would really not want to be living in the village under these circumstances, but he adds that he wouldn't behave "like them". He really doesn't understand why the attempt to create order through collective punishment is a crime.
14:25 - The road leading from Awarta village to the Awarta Checkpoint is blocked by an army hummer vehicle just before the junction with the apartheid road leading to Beit Furik. There's a line of about ten trucks waiting to cross into Nablus and a few in the opposite direction. The soldiers tell us that there's an emergency warning that a Palestinian vehicle is about to drive along the apartheid road towards the settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, so all traffic has been stopped at this point. We asked them why they weren't simply stopping the traffic on the road itself and checking the vehicles, instead of stopping the trucks going toward Nablus. However, that is unthinkable, since that might disrupt the settlers' freedom of movement. The "Humanitarian Centre" tells us that this is a temporary measure, and, actually, on our way back, at 15:00, the trucks are just beginning to be allowed to move on. Now, all the trucks that were on their way to Nablus have reached the Awarta Checkpoint itself, and a line of about twenty trucks forms, all of them waiting to pass through. In order to expedite matters, the soldiers are opening up a second security-check station just as we arrive.
14:35 - Beit Furik Checkpoint -
There are very few people going through the checkpoint. Most of the time, the checkpoint is empty. Those who do arrive, go through quickly. The taxi drivers
tell us that the checkpoint was 'bad' yesterday and the day before, but that there are no special problems today.
15:20 - Huwwara Checkpoint -
The checkpoint is full of pedestrians. Women and older people, who went through the "Humanitarian" line, tell us that it took them between 15 minutes and half an hour to go through the checkpoint; men - older and younger - are being checked more carefully, which is taking about an hour. The heat is making everyone very uncomfortable. Little kids are hanging onto their parents, exhausted. Some of the older women can hardly cross the few hundred meters from one end of the checkpoint to the other. One of them faints in the middle of the checkpoint. The DCO representative comes to help her. One of the female MP's faints and one of the three security-check stations is closed down. After a while, another of the two remaining stations closes down because one of the soldiers doesn't feel well, so for several long moments there is only one station open. A second station is opened, and after another half an hour or so, the third station is re-opened.
There are female canine-unit soldiers at the checkpoint, but they aren't checking the vehicles. In answer to our question, it turns out that it is too hot for the dogs to be used. At least they show compassion for the dogs.
An army bulldozer is working in a field north-west of the checkpoint. Perhaps they're preparing to enlarge the checkpoint. It's not clear. We meet the researcher for "B'Tselem", who has just left Nablus. He tells us that he has come to collect testimony concerning the army's seizure of this land.
A group of young boys goes by - the Ramallah hand-ball team. They are all in 10th - 12th grade. They came to play the Nablus team - and lost. One of the members of the team realized that he had forgotten his ID at the security-check station and goes back to ask for it. The soldiers at the station say that one of the other boys took the ID. The young man starts running around among his friends and around the taxi-cab parking lot in order to find out who took his ID and doesn't find out anything. He's under a lot of pressure. Without an ID he won't be able to go through the Za'tara Checkpoint and go home to Ramallah. We ask the Checkpoint Commander to write a temporary passage permit for him, only in order to help him get home. The Checkpoint Commander sends us to the DCO representative. He writes a note containing
the details of the incident - and the team continues on its way home. The note seems to have worked, since we don't see the team detained at Za'tara when we pass on our way home. Still, that doesn't change the fact that he will have to pay several hundred shekels to get a new ID when he gets home to Ramallah, and he will be stuck in Ramallah till he gets it. All that because of a moment's lapse in attention on the part of the young man himself and irresponsibility on the part of the soldiers.
Ten cars are waiting to go through the Za'tara Checkpoint from the North.
An army jeep is standing across from one of the gates leading from the Marda orchards to Route 505. The gates are sealed with barbed wire and there's a deep ditch aimed at preventing vehicles from trying to cross. The jeep is probably there to see if anyone is going to try to pass through the closed gate in any case.